The DA has today written to the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, to request an urgent investigation into the circumstances leading to the fire on the slopes of Table Mountain and the subsequent damage to UCT, Mostert’s Mill and other buildings. We have requested that the investigation be led by an independent entity with the aim to establish (but not be limited to) the following:
1. Whether all firebreaks in the area were properly cut and maintained prior to the outbreak of the fire.
2. Whether the threat of the high fuel load from the old pine trees and debris close to UCT had been identified by SAN Parks, and if so, why this had not been addressed?
3. Whether all fire hydrants in the area were/are in proper working order and whether there were a sufficient number of hydrants.
4. Whether there are other areas in the Table Mountain National Park with high fuel loads that could lead to other fires.
While the hot weather and high winds certainly played a major role in the fast spread of this fire, there should have been more effective contingency measures in place to prevent the rapid spread and both SAN Parks and UCT need to provide answers in this regard.
In response to a parliamentary question I submitted in February, Minister Creecy gave the assurance that SAN Parks was preparing for potential mountain fires and that homes close to the mountain were protected by firebreaks. It appears that these firebreaks have not proven as effective as thought, as it is clear that the fire managed to reach suburban homes and cause severe damage to UCT. Burning debris and embers spread to suburbs quite far from the mountain edge, setting trees alight.
We commend and thank all those brave firefighters, rangers, volunteers and law enforcement staff for their ongoing efforts to stop the fire and keep communities safe. Our thoughts are also with all those whose properties have been damaged or are under threat.
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